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Reading Crown Court: Minimum 17 years behind bars for Newbury baby killer James Lawton



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BABY killer James Lawton was sentenced to life imprisonment this afternoon, Friday, with a minimum 17 year term.

This morning a Reading Crown Court jury convicted him of torturing and killing his infant son, Colby.

The mother, Chantelle Stroud, of Newtown Road, Newbury, was acquitted of causing or allowing Colby's death by a majority verdict.

James Lawton (53355137)
James Lawton (53355137)

Friends and family of Ms Stroud burst into tears of relief in the courtroom public gallery as the verdict was announced.

Later she sat in the public gallery and watched her former lover stand in the dock to hear his fate.

Four-week-old Colby suffered 50 broken bones, a skull fracture and partial strangulation before he died.

Lawton, aged 28, of Boreham Field in Warminster, Wiltshire, killed Colby on May 9 last year at Fountain Gardens, Ashridge Court, Newbury.

Eloise Marshall QC, prosecuting, said a skull fracture that happened days before his death was the result of Colby's head being smashed against a hard surface; that there were 77 bruises on his body, signs of strangulation, multiple shattered ribs and broken legs.

The final, fatal shaking was so severe it resulted in brain damage so bad it resembled injuries typical of a 90mph car crash, the court heard.

Eloise Marshall QC, prosecuting, told the High Court Judge, Mrs Justice Stacey, that it was plausible that Lawton's attack on Colby may have been pre-meditated, thus aggravating his conviction sentencing.

Mitigating for Lawton, Nicholas Syfrett QC, said: "Every aspect of this trial has shown the people involved go from 1-100 with their actions," arguing that the attack could not have been pre-meditated, as the prosecution argued.

Sentencing Lawton Ms Justice Stacey, said: "Colby Lawton was an absolute poppet, who was in a hurry to see the world.

"He took just three hours to be born, two weeks before his due date.

"At three weeks old he already recognised you and Chantelle Stroud as parents.

"In the last picture taken of him, four hours before his death, he was glancing up at his mum.

"He was vulnerable and helpless, dependent on you to take care of him.

"However, you shook 29-day-old Colby so hard you caused immediate cardio-respiratory arrest.

"He suffered brain injuries and was declared dead at 3.06am.

"I do accept that you did not intend to kill Colby as you are a man who acts spontaneously, but you did intend to cause him serious bodily harm.

"It was a spur-of-the-moment decision."

"'After Colby was born, you tried hard to be a good father to him, taking turns to do the night feeds.

"You made an effort to cut down on drinking and stopped smoking cannabis, which was hard after 10 years of the habit.

"But in the week beginning May 4, you started drinking again and your relationship entered a volatile phase arguing with each other and with neighbours.

"When Ms Stroud was stood outside chatting to her friends, while you were inside with Colby, you caused him grievous bodily harm with the intention to do so.

"You have not specified how it was caused, but the evidence shows you most likely hit his head against a hard surface.

"Around that same time, you squeezed his chest and twisted his leg.

"Those serious injuries were not fatal and Colby, being the resilient little person he was, presented as normal after that as his body tried to heal from the assault.

"I accept it was a momentary loss of temper.

"You did not acknowledge what you had done at the time.

"Although you cannot accept what you did to Colby, I have no doubt you have unarticulated remorse and regret for his death.

"Colby's killing came from the serious injuries you inflicted in the days earlier, which would have been very painful for him."

Lawton was sentenced to life imprisonment of 17 years minimum in custody, having to serve the full time stated before he can be considered for parole. He marched out of the dock following the sentencing and was led down to the courtroom cells.



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